High School Cybersecurity Research Internship

Are you a high school student in the Phoenix area interested in cybersecurity research? Do you want to experience the hottest up-and-coming security lab around, work on cool projects, and do Capture the Flag (CTF) hacking competitions on the side? You have come to the right place. Arizona State University’s Center for Cybersecurity and Trusted Foundations (CTF) is looking for high school students with a passion for hacking and computer science to do a research internship with us during the summer months. This page has some frequently asked questions.

Who’s eligible to apply?

Anyone who is a high school student at the time of the application is eligible! This means if you’re a senior about to graduate, you’re invited to apply to the program (which will take place in the summer directly following your graduation).

There are no age restrictions, though there will be a few extra steps if you’re under the age of 18. For example, your parent or guardian will need to sign off on your participation. More information for parents/guardians can be found near the bottom of this page.

Why should I do an internship?

A research internship serves several purposes:

  1. The internship exposes you to the environment of a world-class cybersecurity research lab and conveys what it means to conduct impactful research.
  2. Because you will be carrying out cutting-edge academic research, the internship can act as a “preview” to our computer science programs for those of you considering studying at ASU in the future.
  3. The internship exposes you to prominent researchers in the field, giving you valuable interpersonal connections for future pursuits within and outside of academia.
  4. Because your work will be on the cutting edge, you will be exposed to emerging concepts and technologies (for example, binary analysis using angr at a more fundamental level than just by cloning them on github).
  5. For high school students interested in pursuing a degree in cybersecurity, the internship provides experience in a research setting to pursue something you are interested in, while under the supervision of experienced advisors.

Who will I be supervised by?

Internships are carried out under the guidance of PhD students in ASU SEFCOM lab and are overseen by our leading cybersecurity faculty team, made up of Yan Shoshitaishvili (known in the CTF scene as Zardus), Adam Doupé (adamd), Ruoyu (Fish) Wang (fish), and Tiffany Bao (tiffanyb). Yan, Adam, Fish, and Tiffany are prominent researchers and avid CTF players (having played and hosted CTFs with Shellphish, the Order of the Overflow, and the ASU Hacking Club). They are always pushing into new avenues of research, and Yan, Adam, and Tiffany have previously organized the DEF CON CTF.

How long is the internship?

The internship is an 8 week experience that takes place in the summer. Specific dates are provided on the application, linked below.

What is the time commitment?

This is fairly flexible, but we generally expect interns to dedicate about 20 hours per week to the internship.

Where does the internship take place?

The internship takes place on-site in the SEFCOM lab at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ. The address of our building is Brickyard Engineering, 699 S Mill Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281. Interns are responsible for their transportation to and from the campus, as well as lodging if they are not from the area.

Will I be paid?

Yes, this is a paid internship! An intern will be paid in a stipend amount of $1,800 at the end of the experience if completed in full. The stipend will be prorated if the individual leaves the program early.

What will I work on?

You will have a lot of freedom (and guidance) in terms of what to work on. Some possibilities are:

  1. PhD students in the lab often have brilliant project ideas that they simply do not have the bandwidth to pursue. Upon your arrival, graduate students will pitch such projects (vetted by the professors) to you.
  2. The professors may also have project ideas to pitch to you.
  3. You might arrive with ideas of what you want to work on. If this is the case, a graduate student will work with you to develop the project for the internship.

After the professors and students discuss possible projects with you, you should carefully deliberate on which ones interest you the most. Take a few days to think about it, clarify any uncertainties, and then let us know what your choice is!

You will be paired with a PhD student who will act as a research mentor. This will usually be the student whose brilliant idea you choose to turn into a reality, or one who has a similar passion for your research interests.

What is the end-goal of the internship?

At the end of the eight weeks, you’ll have the chance to share your research project and findings with a lab of graduate students, professors, and other guests in a presentation. This is an opportunity to talk about the questions you developed, the challenges you encountered, and what you learned along the way. Depending on your higher education goals, this project could easily transition into a longer-term research project!

It is important to note that, in the end, this internship is more for you than it is for us. A good outcome (and we will strive to help you get there) is awesome for everyone. A bad outcome (and these, unfortunately, do happen) is not the end of the world. Bad outcomes here means that no progress is made and nothing is produced. This is not to make the internship seem insignificant, but to relieve the pressure: our lives do not “hang” on your performance—don’t panic! Of course, if you’re looking for a letter of recommendation from us, shoot for a good outcome.

How will my progress be measured?

We have weekly meetings of the whole lab where everyone presents their progress, along with on-demand as-needed one-on-one sessions. You should be present at these meetings (or let us know of your absence in advance) even when you have not made progress. Research sometimes progresses in bursts, and you sometimes need to sit back and think on things for a while. This is fine, and we are absolutely accepting of it, but we like to know what’s going on so that we can help if you’re blocked.

Can I open source my work?

Yes! We all strongly believe in open access to research, and barring weird unforeseen circumstances, you will be encouraged to open source your projects with collaboration of your mentor.

What about CTF?

We love to CTF! ASU is called home by the ASU Hacking Club, who meet weekly and play CTFs on weekends, and some members of Shellphish, who play CTFs when they feel like it. Additionally, Yan, Adam, and Tiffany are members of the Order of the Overflow, and have hosted DEF CON CTF in that capacity.

If you like to play CTF, then CTF will be a fundamental part of your internship! Come hack with us, develop ideas inspired by CTF, and help push the community forward!

So what is expected of me, really?

As a successful intern, you will demonstrate technical skill and/or academic promise. How you do this is a function of you. We hope that you will do this while also enjoying the process, and that you will leave with fond memories (and decide to come back to ASU in the future). In general, we are looking for students who are:

  • interested in cybersecurity
  • ready to learn
  • have tech skills
  • have experience with Python, or other programing languages
  • interested in CTFs (even if you’ve never participated in one!)
  • are self-driven
  • and who have the following soft skills: strong communication and writing abilities, collaborative workers, critical and creative thinkers, a solid work ethic, and the ability to manage their time.

Sounds great! How do I apply?

If you are interested in the internship, please complete this application form. We will select finalists based on the responses submitted on the form. Finalists will be asked to provide one reference.

Info for Parents

We take safety very seriously. As precautions, anyone who interacts with interns who are under the age of 18 in a 1:1 capacity will have:

  • completed the “Minors on Campus” training, provided by ASU’s Risk Management Office
  • received a background check
  • been fingerprinted

All faculty and staff working on the program have completed the above steps. Anyone who has not completed these steps is not permitted to interact with the intern unless they are accompanied by someone who has completed the above protocols. Any intern, regardless of age, is not permitted to be in the cybersecurity lab space on campus without the accompaniment of their PhD mentor.

Questions?

Please email: cyber@asu.edu